All Afterglow cosmetics are free of parabens, synthetic preservatives, talc, gluten, bismuth ocychloride, cornstarch, soy, mineral oil, petrochemicals, carmine, phthalates, FD&C and lake dyes, and fragrance.
The average nail care products contain a hefty amount of serious toxins in their ingredients, and conventional nail polish is basically nothing more than a refined version of automobile paint. Sure these products make your nails look gorgeous, but they contain toxic chemicals (dibutyl pthalate, formaldehyde, toluene), that can stay in your system and generate internal toxicity. Not entirely free of chemicals (it’d be great to have an organic nail polish at some point!), at least using natural nail polish alternatives such as Zoya if you must have gorgeous, well-groomed nails, ensures that you’re not absorbing the worst offending ingredients. Not only are they the longest wearing natural nail lacquers, but they come in over 60 luscious, fashion forward colors.
Where you can find them: almost everywhere: shampoos, soap, skin lotions, sunscreens, make-up, you name it!Â Besides their long name, they can also be identified by their codes: E214 for ethylparaben, E218 for methylparaben, E216 for propylparaben.
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: they are preservatives that give products a longer shelf life.
Why you shouldn’t use them: So many products contain them that they build up in our bodies, where they can act on our hormones, and have been found to be estrogen-disruptors. Washed off in the shower, parabens accumulate in waterways and also disrupt the hormonal system of animals who drink or swim in that water.
Where you can find them: shampoos and soaps
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: they are a foaming agent
Why you shouldn’t use them: They can enter the heart, brain and liver through the skin, where they can accumulate. Moreover, SLS and SLES react with many other ingredients to form nitrosomines (or nitrates), which are potential carcinogenics.
Where you can find them: shampoos, hair conditioners, skin care products, moisturizers, bath products, and makeup bases and foundations
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: They are antimicrobial preservatives used to prevent molds and bacterial spoilage.
Why you shouldn’t use them: Although not suspected to be environmental toxins, they are known human immune system toxicants as well as human skin toxicants. They work by releasing formaldehyde into the products.
Where you can find them: any product, not just perfumes.
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: to either give a pleasant smell or cover up a bad one.
Why you shouldn’t use them:Any ingredient, included phthalates, can be hidden behind the word Fragrance: cosmetic industries are not required to divulge all their ingredients and play the trade secret card. Fragrances cause allergies, are linked to cancer and can attack the nervous system.
Where you can find them: creams, lotions, shampoos and conditioners
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: They are preservatives with antibacterial and antifungal effects, effective against fungus and yeast.
Why you shouldn’t use them: they cause allergies and attack the nervous system
Where you can find it: surfactants, lotions, cleansing agents, emulsifiers, skin conditioners. The number next to PEG indicates the molecular weight of the compounds that make up PEG.
Why it is used by the cosmetic industry: for penetration enhancing effect.
Why you shouldn’t use it: PEG is a toxic contaminant and possible carcinogen. It should not be used on damaged skin as it can cause itch and rash.It also contains various harmful impurities, including lead.
Where you can find them: soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, and toothpastes
Why they are used by the cosmetic industry: antibacterial and antifungal agents
Why you shouldn’t use them: They have an impact on our thyroid and are suspected to cause cancer. They also pose environmental concerns: they are persistent organic pollutants, acutely and chronically toxic to aquatic organisms.
Where you can find it: face and body moisturizers, mascaras, shampoos, baby products
Why it is used by the cosmetic industry: to balance pH
Why you shouldn’t use it: it is a potential carcinogen, as it combines with other ingredients to create nitrosamines, which cause cancer. It can also
trigger allergies. As it accumulates in our bodies, it can become toxic. DEA (diethanolamines) and MEA (coconut oil amide of monoethanolamine) are close relatives which pose similar concerns.
When buying a sunscreen, here is what you should look for and what you should avoid at all costs:
Look for: Cream based sunscreens that provide broad-spectrum protection, are water resistant and have an SPF of 30+. Make sure your sunscreens include Zinc, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX which are all mineral based and protect your skin from harmful UVA radiation without absorbing into your body. Even when using these sunscreens, make sure to reapply often and stay out of the sun whenever possible.
Avoid: Sprays or powders as they put tiny particles in the air that may not be safe to breathe, as well as sunscreens with an SPF above 50+. Sunscreens with claims of SPFs over 50+ are misleading according to the FDA and provide no proven extra protection. Also, do not use products that contain Oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin A), or added insect repellent.
Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and slowly contaminates the body. As sunscreens are commonly used at the beach or river banks, oxybenzone disperses into the water where it threatens marine life, causing male fish to turn into females. Our seemingly innocuous sunscreen application is hence directly affecting our fragile ecosystem and contributing to making it unsustainable. As for Vitamin A, it is shown to promote development of tumors and lesions on the skin.
The following sunscreens were rated to be among the best (in alphabetical order) by the Environmental Working Group. They contain no oxybenzone, Vitamin A, or insect repellant. The ratings are on a scale from one through ten, with one being the highest rating a product can get, indicating the product is safe and contains few, if any, known environmental and health hazards.
Size: 2.9 oz.
Overall Score: 1
Size: .5 oz.
Overall Score: 1
Size: 5 oz.
Overall Score: 1
Size: 4 oz.
Overall Score: 1
Size: 2.8 oz.
Overall Score: 1
Now that we have seen the best of the sunscreens, it would also be helpful to look at some of the worst to know what to avoid. And while there are hundreds of sunscreens that made the bottom of the list, what was very interesting to see was that a lot of these low scorers were brands that were the most highly advertised and widely available in stores. Here are some of the popular brand lowest scorers (alphabetically) and why we should avoid them at all costs.
Aveeno’s popular sunscreen spray contains oxybenzone, vitamin A, and has a misleading SPF. Its fragrance rates high on the neurotoxicity scale and it contains endocrine disruptors and high levels of reproductive toxicity. In general, avoid sprays as they release more chemicals into the environment and can damage your health even more.
Banana Boat’s Baby sunscreen is a very bad way to protect your child from the sun as it contains oxybenzone, vitamin A, and allows for UVA radiation to penetrate into the skin, which can cause aging and cancer. This sunscreen also has an excessively high SPF which cannot be proven to be more effective but lures people to stay out in the sun for longer, causing more damage.
At first glance this sunscreen may seem to fit the criteria of good sunscreens because it does not boast a very high SPF, but don’t be deceived. Coppertone’s sunscreen also contains hazardous chemicals that cause allergic reactions, immunotoxicity, bioaccumulation, and enhanced skin absorption. So even if this sunscreen can spray at any angle and has a spill-proof cap, it still can’t deliver the protection needed to save your skin.
Of the nineteen Hawaiian Tropic beach and sport sunscreens tested by the EWG, eighteen of them fell into the lowest category while the remaining one is recommended with high caution. Hawaiian Tropic’s Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen is meant to be non-greasy and feel invisible. But unfortunately its new exotic coconut scent does not prevent it from being very harmful. The presence of retinyl palmitate can contribute to cancer and the high amounts of Benzyl alcohol increase the product’s organ system toxicity. Just as it will harm your system, it will harm that of fish and other wildlife that comes into contact with it.
Neutrogena is a pretty popular brand in skin care with its proclaimed title of being the number one dermatologist recommended brand. But despite this claim, Neutrogena still has a long way to go in producing safe sunscreens. This product is among the bestsellers for Neutrogena but is rated by the EWG to have high health concerns due to its chemical components. Benzyl Alcohol, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Propylparaben are all ingredients that cause irritation, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and immunotoxicity. Parabens are found in waterways where they harm the reproductive system of fish as well as many other animals that drink from that water.
To see the full list of rated sunscreens and to see how your sunscreen stacks up against the competition, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide.
By following these sunscreen guidelines, you will help protect the environment and ensure maximum protection for your family and your skin during the summer months and beyond.